27 September, 2012A four-day workshop for organizers and activists from the auto sector was held in St Petersburg, Russia, from 14 to 17 September.
Following the Automotive Working Group Meeting in St Petersburg, Helmut Lense, Director for Auto & Rubber Industries at IndustriALL Global Union, carried out a Strategic Planning meeting with affiliate ITUA, which organizes in the major TNC’s in the St Petersburg Auto Cluster.
Lense who also invited Tony Murphy and John Cooper from UNITE to participate, explained how the IndustriALL Global Company Networks function, stressing the importance of building direct links and coordination mechanisms between unionists to exchange experiences and devise common strategies to fight for workers’ rights and decent working conditions for all.
As several participants came from the GM St Petersburg plant, which the Automotive working group had visited, they shared information about the dire health and safety conditions and recent dismissals of workers fired for union activism with the UNITE representatives, who promised to take up these issues up with the UK union and the global network.
The group of organizers and activists were keen to describe the tough working conditions in the auto assembly and auto parts sector, as well as the aggressive anti-union tactics that MNC’s impose on Russian workers. They also had many questions about building concrete solidarity with their counterparts worldwide and wanted to learn about effective union structures in their sector in other parts of the world.
Bob Van Cleef, CAW National Representative/Organizing Department and Annie Labaj, from the CAW International Department followed up with a lively participative three day workshop where the activists and organizers shared the daily challenges and patterns of employers’ anti-union tactics they confront and where practical solutions and strategies to build up the union membership were jointly devised.
The young and very active participants were particularly impressed and galvanized by the energy and optimism of Bob, a seasoned organizer from Ford and by his in-depth familiarity with the challenges workers face in their workplaces, as well as at the bargaining table.
At the end of the workshop and with support from the union leadership, the participants had designed a Chart of Organizing Principles and their Action Plans for the targeted workplaces, which will be tabled and discussed in their upcoming Congress in October.
As Helmut Lense declared,
“We need to continue this kind of concrete articulation and sharing of experiences and skills between unionists, who can really teach each other how to win battles for workers rights to a decent job.”
This workshop is part of the ongoing three year Organizing Project for the Auto Sector in the St Petersburg area supported by CAW Canada, which is scheduled to continue until 2014.